Letter From Milo: Smoke Out

August 6th, 2018

Okay. Here we go again. I’m trying to quit smoking for the 300th time. I’ve got all my shit with me – Nicorette gum, Tootsie Pops, sugarless chewing gum, literature from the alarmists at the American Heart and Lung associations, and a hotline number to call when the urge to smoke comes over me.

How hard can it be to quit smoking? I’ve given up a lot of other vices. I don’t use drugs anymore. I gave up hard liquor, although I do enjoy a glass or two of wine on occasion. I quit gambling. I gave up having crazy, acrobatic, and unprotected sex with supermodels. Matter of fact, now that I think about it, smoking is one of my only remaining vices.

So, how hard can it be to quit? For me, it’s close to impossible. I’ve tried acupuncture and laser treatments. The laser thing, in my opinion, was a rip-off. It cost more than $300 and I was smoking again half an hour after I walked out of the clinic.

I tried acupuncture about 20 years ago and it worked – for three weeks. I was smoke-free, on my way to a healthy life style. I was planning to join a health club, lift weights, and run marathons. I was going to become a better person, a Milo 2.0. The world was going to be my oyster.

Then, darn the luck, I had an attack of kidney stones. For those who have never been afflicted by kidney stones, consider yourselves lucky. It is one of the most painful conditions you can imagine. The only thing doctors can do is make you comfortable, and that means keeping you doped up on Demerol and running IV liquids through your system until you piss the damn stones out.

So, there I was at Illinois Masonic Hospital (as it was then known,) blissfully under the influence of a primo opiate, when I noticed that my attending nurse had a pack of cigarettes in her pocket. Of course, I bummed one, then talked her into buying me a pack of Marlboro Lights. I doubt Florence Nightingale would have approved.

I’ve tried to quit a couple of times since then but never lasted more than a few days. But this time – this time – I’m going to do it. For one thing, cigarettes are just getting way too expensive. At more than $8 a pack, I’m spending over fifty bucks a week. And the city and state are planning to raise the cigarette tax again in a month or two.

Another reason I’m going to quit is that my Wife and Kids are driving me crazy. They won’t let up. They’re on my case every day.

Wife: “Didn’t you feel like an idiot at the Ivcich‘s last night, going out on the porch and smoking those stupid cigarettes. It was freezing.”

Me: “It was pretty cold, heh heh.”

Daughter #1: “We don’t want you to die, Dad. Please stop.”

Daughter #2: “Nobody else smokes. It’s like totally embarrassing.”

Wife: “Plus you reek of smoke and you get those big bags under your eyes.”

Me: “What bags?”

Daughter #1: “More like suitcases.”

Daughter #2: “Duffle bags, actually.”

Me: “Very funny. Haven’t you kids got something to do, like homework?”

Wife: “Everybody’s just very concerned. It’s not like you’re a kid anymore.”

Me: “Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that I’m old, I stink, and I’m ugly. Is that what you’re telling me?”

Wife: “Kind of, yeah.”

Me: “Well, shit, honey. I already knew that.”

I don’t have great hopes about quitting. I know myself too well. But I have to give it a serious try, if only to have some peace and quiet at home. Still, when I think about it, it would be nice to get back in shape, lift some weights, do a little running. You never know, those nymphomaniac supermodels might come calling again. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Jim Siergey: Greer Garson

August 2nd, 2018

Greer Garson. There’s a name for ya. She was a movie actress, whose heyday was in the 1940s.

I was aware of the name but I never saw any of her movies. All I really knew of her was from a phrase “Gable’s back and Garson’s got him!” which was the tagline used for Clark Gable’s first film after he returned from the service.

I also knew she won an Academy Award but that was it for my knowledge of Greer Garson.

Recently, she entered my life and as a result I have found out a wee bit more about the lady.

I happened to turn on the TV one day and an episode of a popular program from the 1950s, “Father Knows Best” was in progress. I was eating some lunch so I let it play on.

It had something to do with the youngest daughter, Kathy, being ill and unable to attend a function where she was to meet Greer Garson. In true 1950s family sit-com style, Greer Garson made an appearance at the end in little Kathy’s bedroom. Not only that but, due to little tyke’s insistence, Ms. Garson then acted out all the parts in her new movie.

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There once was a Greer named Garson…

 

I sort of paid attention to it but it was just a little too much 1950s fantasy to take.

Soon after that, the next day perhaps even, I turned the TV on yet again, this time to see what was being broadcast on Turner Classic Movies. I now have cable TV for the first time in my life so I am able to check out this channel that I have heard so much about.

“Pride and Prejudice” from 1940 was in play and there was Greer Garson! She was in a scene with Laurence Olivier and she was great. She was acting the pants off of him, but since it was 1940, his trousers stayed put.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was captivating. And quite easy on the eyes, too.

So, I looked her up on the internet. She had seven Academy Award nominations, including five in a row for Best Actress, receiving one in 1942 for “Mrs. Miniver”.

She was the Meryl Streep of the 1940s! She even had the non-bombshell attractiveness of Ms. Streep. A’course, that’s all the opinion of one man, the guy typing out this post.

From glimpsing this brief scene on TCM I now look forward to watching one of her movies some day.

Garson’s back and Siergey’s got her.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was It’s The Thought

 

 

 

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Randolph Street: Couples

August 1st, 2018

1DSCF1245 copyCouple–Uptown

 

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4DSCF1278Wait–Art Institute

 

5DSCF1247 copyCouple 2–Uptown

 

All photos © Jon Randolph 2016

jonrandolph.com

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Letter From Milo: Dexter

July 30th, 2018

In the late 1970’s and early 80’s I had a little problem with cocaine. I wasn’t the only one. In my social circle the drug seemed to be everywhere. At the parties and gatherings I attended there were more runny noses than in a classroom of first graders during cold and flu season.

At the time there was a lot of misinformation being spread about cocaine. It wasn’t addictive (bullshit). It was great for your sex life (occasionally). It was as harmless as reefer (what a crock of shit). The truth of the matter is that cocaine ruined lives and killed people. And when some genius figured out how to distill the essence of cocaine and turn it into crack, well, you’ve read the papers.

My coke connection was a guy I’ll call Gary. He had been a pot dealer for years before adding coke to his inventory. He had an apartment about half a block from Wrigley Field, and I used to spend a lot of time there, getting high, listening to Gary’s extensive record collection and chatting with his clients when they stopped by to pick up an ounce or two of weed.

I met a lot of characters at Gary’s place. He had been around a long time and had collected an interesting customer base. A lot of theater people and musicians were regulars, as were a contingent of Lincoln Avenue hippies and barflies left over from the 60’s.

The only thing that changed when Gary started dealing coke was that he began making more money. He still liked having people around and was very generous with his product. There were always joints available and a few lines of white powder and a rolled-and-taped hundred dollar bill on a small mirror he kept on his coffee table.

One of Gary’s customers was a guy named Walt, who tended bar at popular local jazz club. I happened to be at Gary’s one day when Walt called and said he was going to stop by. When Gary got off the phone, he was as excited as I’d ever seen him.

“Man, oh, man. Guess who’s dropping by?”

“I heard. It’s Walt, right?”

“Yeah, guess who he’s bring with him.”

“Prince Charles?”

“Dexter Gordon.”

“The saxophone player?”

“One of the greatest ever. The fucking guy’s a legend. Fuck, man. Dexter Gordon.”

It just so happened that I had read about Dexter Gordon in the Tribune that morning. He was making his first American tour in 30 years. Like many American jazz men, Dexter had been an expatriate for much of his career. The expatriates left the country for many reasons – racism, greater financial opportunities, drug problems. Sadly, in Dexter’s case, it was drugs. America’s drug laws were brutal in the 40’s and 50’s, when Dexter was in his prime. Instead of treatment, addicts were locked up for years, doing hard time just for having “marks,” which are the scars left by hypodermic needles. For a better idea of the drug hysteria of the time, read “Straight Life,” the biography of another brilliant saxophone player, the great Art Pepper.

Dexter Gordon was an impressive looking man. He must have been in his late 50’s or early 60’s, but looked younger. He was about 6’5″ tall, a light-complected black man with freckles and closely cropped red hair. He looked a bit like the photos I’d seen of Malcolm X. When he spoke, his voice had a growl like Louis Armstrong.

Dexter was warm, open and talkative. We discussed all sorts of things, the upcoming Chicago Jazz Fest, baseball (he was a Mets) fan), a recording date he was planning, his performance that evening. He spent about three hours with us. I don’t recall everything we talked about, but I do remember that Dexter snorted about two grams of coke.

The man was snorting coke as quickly as Gary could dish it out, and, as I mentioned, Gary was generous with his drugs. I did my share but couldn’t keep up with Dexter. He wasn’t a Hoover, he was a Black and Decker Industrial Strength Wet/Dry Vac. Even Gary was impressed by the amount of coke Dexter was putting away.

It was a pleasant afternoon, one I’ll never forget. When it came time for Dexter to leave, he thanked Gary profusely for his hospitality and invited us to his show. He said he’d leave comps with the bartender.

Due to extenuating circumstances, I didn’t make it to the show, but I made it a point to read the Tribune the next morning to see if there was a review of Dexter’s show. There was indeed a review. I don’t remember the exact wording of the review but it went something like this.

“I am in awe of Dexter Gordon. His career, once derailed by drug addiction, is back on the fast track. The show he put on last night was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Now that Dexter has put his drug problems behind him, his playing is better than ever,”

It did my heart good to read that Dexter Gordon had given up drugs and straightened out his life. Good saxophone players are hard to find.

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Randolph Street: Ward Night

July 27th, 2018

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Progressive Caucus–Chicago

These seven Chicago alderman held a Community Town Hall City Budget hearing Wednesday night. Mayor Emanuel eliminated formal public budget hearings two years ago. The aldermen(from right): Rick Munoz, John Arena, Roderick Sawyer, Bob Fioretti, Scott Waguespack, Toni Foulkes and Nicholas Sposato.

 

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Public Testimony

 

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United Electrical Workers Hall

 

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Alderman Rick Munoz

 

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Aldermen (L) Toni Foulkes, Scott Waguespack and Bob Fioretti

 

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Public Hearing

 

All photos © Jon Randolph 2013

jonrandolph.com

 

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Jim Siergey: It’s The Thought That Counts

July 27th, 2018

After residing in urban dwellings for threescore plus years, I now find myself living in a small town, the suburbs, if you will, in Indiana.

There have been adjustments, i.e. having to drive everywhere as there are no places of business within walking distance, the immense amount of sky that is visible and, of course, lawn maintenance.

I have tended to and thought about tending to the lawn more than all my years combined living in the city but I’ve already kvetched enough about that. To use a much overused popular expression, it is what it is.

My present concern is something else with which I’ve never really concerned myself and that is…neighbors. I have the feeling that I might have to deal differently with neighbors here than I did in Chicago.

The fact that I’m even thinking about this is a revelation!

I consider myself to be a friendly person but the first move, the cold opening, the breaking of ice must be initiated by the other. I tend to be a shunner.

When I lived in apartments I sort of knew the other folks who lived in the building and later, when we bought a house, we knew the parents of the kids our kids played with but the interaction wasn’t anything more than cordiality.

chocolate-chip-cookieSome guys would do anything for a cookie…

 

When the kids grew up and moved away I knew the neighbors on either side of me where, again, interaction didn’t go very deep but here, in a town, where six foot high fences separating neighbors don’t exist (except with the house we bought, natch) I get the feeling that interconnection and affability are embraced.

For instance, soon after moving in, our next door neighbor came over with a plate of home-made chocolate chip cookies to introduce herself and welcome us to the neighborhood. I later met her husband and he and I now wave at one another as we mow our lawns.

In my (as yet unpublished) book, that’s about as far as neighborly interaction should go but, the cookies. We never got cookies in Chicago. It makes me wonder if out here there are also pies cooling on sills.

Anyway, this sort of thing has been causing strange thoughts to invade the secluded emptiness of my mind.

For instance, I noticed that a neighbor two doors down was having a garage sale, complete with multihued pennant-shaped flags lining the driveway. You couldn’t miss it.

I soon found myself thinking that, despite not wanting or needing any kind of item as we’ve been in a getting-rid-of-stuff mode for the past several months, meandering over there would be a neighborly thing to do. Y’know, introduce myself. Be friendly. Act like a neighbor.

That garage sale has been going on for three days now and I still haven’t meandered.

A functioning introvert like me isn’t sure how to handle these kinds of thoughts. Are they just idle flights of fancy that one should merely ignore, as if they were evil temptations put there by the Devil, or are they the kind of thoughts that one actually acts on?

I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like a decision one should make rashly.

Today, as I was once again tending to the lawn, my other next door neighbor introduced herself to me. She even apologized for not baking any cookies!

This old dog isn’t up for learning any new tricks so I think I’ll just approach neighborliness the way I always have— lay back and let them come to me. Why change now?

Woof.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Ne’er Say Ne’er

 

 

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Randolph Street: The Wilds

July 25th, 2018

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These pictures are from the shoreline of Lac Seule in Ontario.

 

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All photos © Jon Randolph 2014

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